Summary : Encounter a plethora of flora and fauna in one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Come unimaginably close to an impressive array of creatures – many of them endemic – including the giant tortoise, waved albatross, and colorful land iguanas. After a day of snorkeling and sunbathing with sea lions, return to the unrivaled comforts of a luxury expedition ship on this adventure of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Arrive in Quito and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy an evening tour of Quito's historic city highlights.
Transfer from your hotel to the Quito airport for your flight to the Galapagos. Embark the vessel, and settle in, meet your Expedition Team. Head for Daphne Island to do a circumnavigation. From the ship, watch for masked and blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, red-billed tropicbirds, brown noddies and brown pelicans, as well as swallow-tailed gulls.
Genovesa (“Tower “in English) is dubbed “Bird Island”, a name it lives up to in a spectacular way. Huge colonies of seabirds create a birder watcher’s paradise, and one of the few places where you can see two species of boobies nesting. Take a walk on the sandy beach of Darwin Bay, home to one of the world’s largest red-footed booby nesting colonies. Yellow-crowned night herons feed near tidal lagoons, while thousands of swallow-tailed gulls nest in the cliffs.
Climb the “steps”, a steep path named after the Duke of Edinburgh who visited the island in 1965, and you will be well rewarded: a remarkable spectacle of masked boobies nesting on the ground, great frigate birds with their fiery red sacs. After a morning walk, have a chance to enjoy your first snorkeling excursion and experience the diverse, underwater wonderland that surrounds the island.
You will also have the opportunity to kayak around Darwin Bay—which is actually a flooded caldera—and admire the island’s craggy landscape.
North Seymour is a small up-lifted island close to Baltra filled with a spectacular profusion of wildlife — above and below the sea. Two species of frigatebirds nest here; one of which, the magnificent frigatebird, is an opportunistic breeder. At any month of the year you may see males displaying their bright-red gular pouch to attract females. Galapagos sea lions snooze in the sand. Blue-footed boobies perform their courtship dance called “sky-pointing”. Marine iguanas and Galapagos land iguanas patrol the beach, while brown pelicans and brown noddies look for food in the shallow coastal waters. Walk through this spectacular landscape, and afterwards have an opportunity to go snorkeling—perhaps even spotting the impressive whitetip reef shark.
Go ashore on the east coast of Santiago Island, witness the marks Nature has left on the islands through its geological forces. Land on a white sandy beach or directly onto lava –depending on the conditions. See lava flows dating back to 1897. Here the very high temperature of the molten material, as well as its gas content, has created a smooth surface. The appearance this lava has is almost like frail rope and the technical term for it is pahoehoe (a Hawaiian name that supposedly suggests the swirls left behind by a paddle (=hoe) in the water). Later, head to a sandy beach and enjoy some time for snorkeling. Keep an eye out for turtles!
Rabida is a small picturesque island with red rock cliffs and maroon-color sand. Observe Darwin’s finches, lava lizards and Galapagos mockingbirds. Take a walk along the cliffs where the red rocks, green Palo Santo trees and the blue turquoise sea create landscapes of stunning contrast, while an underwater world teeming with colorful tropical species and vibrant marine landscapes is equally amazing. After a short but rewarding hike, take the opportunity to swim or simply stroll along the beach and admire the sea lions snoozing along the shore. Or go for a stunning snorkel with sea lions, reef sharks, marine iguanas, colorful anemones and parrotfish, or kayak along the picturesque Rabida cliffs.
Sail to El Eden for snorkeling, kayaking and Zodiac rides. Eden is a small, eroded tuff cone and an excellent example of the unique geology of the Galapagos. It is home to great blue herons, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies, while the small tidal areas can be a resting place for reef sharks, eagle rays and green sea turtles.
Discover the Galapagos giant tortoise and their babies, and learn more about current conservation efforts at the Galapaguera Cerro Colorado. Breeding and rearing endemic animals in captivity is part of a much broader conservation program aimed at restoring and protecting the Galapagos Islands' natural biodiversity.
San Cristobal is one of the oldest islands in Galapagos and the well-eroded landscape of Punta Pitt creates a dramatic landscape. You may see all three species of boobies here: red, blue and masked, as well as both types of frigate birds. After a wet landing on an olivine beach where sea lions doze, climb up a ravine to view one of the most scenic panoramas in the archipelago. Lava lizards guide your way, while red-footed boobies and masked boobies fly overhead.
Swim with the sea lions at Gardner Bay’s gorgeous beach or snorkel with large schools of colorful tropical fish and perhaps the occasional manta ray. You may wish to experience this from a kayak: paddling through crystal-clear waters while marveling at the natural wonders all around you.
In the afternoon visit Punta Suárez at the western point of Española, the oldest island in the Galapagos. Sheer cliffs provide superb thermals for seabirds. Swallow-tailed gulls, nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies can easily be seen. The largest seabird to nest in the Islands, the waved Galapagos albatross, may be seen seasonally from April through December, and has made Española its home. Mockingbirds, doves, and occasional Galapagos hawks can also be found, as well as sea lions and colorful marine iguanas.
At the Charles Darwin Research Station breeding and rearing center, see both dome-shaped and saddle-backed tortoises, as well as baby giant tortoises up to 5 years old that are waiting to be returned to their home island.
Towards the end of the morning, there will be time to do some sightseeing and shopping in Puerto Ayora.
South Plaza is a little island located close to the eastern coast of Santa Cruz. It boasts a colony of Galapagos land iguanas, but the setting is also a highlight—giant prickly pear cactus, the reddish sesuvium plant, a mat-like ground cover, and a large nesting colony of swallow-tailed gulls make this small island an excellent stop. Marine iguanas and Galapagos sea lions are also around.
Disembark the vessel and transfer to the airport for your return flight to the mainland.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes. Read this itinerary as a guide only, as the exact route and the wildlife you encounter may vary.
Two-night pre-voyage hotel stay with breakfast at the Quito JW Marriott; evening tour of Quito's historic city highlights; roundtrip economy class air between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; transfer from the hotel to the airport in Quito; pre- and post-cruise transfers between the airport and Silver Galapagos in Baltra; a post-cruise hotel day room at the Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil (for guests with flights after 10 p.m.); transfer from the airport to the hotel, and from the hotel to the airport in Guayaquil; Galapagos National Park Fee; porterage fees; cabin accommodations aboard ship; all meals aboard ship; Galapagos Transit Card; all shore activities and excursions; guide and lecture service; butler service; gratuities (except Spa); kayaking; snorkel gear and wetsuits; complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, spirits, soda, water and coffee); one hour of Internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and Terrace Suites; unlimited Internet access for passengers booked in Veranda, Deluxe Veranda, and Silver Suites; courtesy binoculars and raincoats on loan. Subject to change without notice.
International airfare; government taxes; laundry or valet services, purchases from the ship boutiques or any item or service of a personal nature; premium sparkling wines and spirits; travel health insurance (required to enter Ecuador); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Daniela Plaza, © Richard Sidey (crab, hikers, hawk, albatross, iguana), © Ralph Lee Hopkins (turtle)